Best Foreign Films for Family Movie Night. Do you have a family movie night tradition? If not, now’s a great time to start one. It gives family members something to look forward to each week and new topics to discuss around the dinner table. Whether scheduling a regular family flick night is new or something you’ve already got in place, consider adding some international flair with the best foreign films for families.
With that in mind, here are some tips and suggestions to make sharing an international movie a fun family treat.
Family Movie Night 101
Families have been hosting regular movie nights since the invention of the VCR. While Friday night is by far the most popular evening for these events, Saturday comes in a close second. As for food choices? Pizza takes top billing followed by Chinese takeout and tacos. Of course, popcorn remains a staple, too.
Family film nights are so popular you can even purchase “family movie night kits” or find instructions for how to make your own on Pinterest. That said, global flicks deserve special fare. For example, consider eating sushi to celebrate a Japanese anime movie night or indulging in your favorite curry and naan for a Bollywood film fest.
Family Movie Night Ideas
To avoid sibling bickering, consider setting some basic ground rules, like who gets to pick the films and when. You’ll also want to do a little extra research to find the most appropriate movies for your children’s ages and interests. Many foreign films include subtitles, although some are dubbed in English. In general, dubbed movies work best for younger kids.
Keep in mind that cultures around the world differ in terms of what’s considered age-appropriate for kids. Bookmark sources such as IMDb and Common Sense Media to read up on each film first. That way, you can avoid sensitive subject matter.
Foreign Films for Families
Now that you’ve got some ideas for incorporating around-the-world adventures into family film night, the fun can begin! Selecting great international cinema that’s appropriate for a range of ages can lead to the discovery of many hidden gems.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki is known as the Walt Disney of Japan and with good reason. His animation (a.k.a. anime) films are incredible. A great introduction to Miyazaki and anime is My Neighbor Totoro. It tells the story of two girls (voiced by Dakota and Elle Fanning) who enjoy adventures with forest spirits near their mother’s hospital, and it’s fantastic for kids five and up.
The Red Balloon
You may have watched this French classic as a kid. Nonetheless, The Red Balloon (1956) remains timeless. Appropriate for children five and up, it’s an imaginative, magical tale about a red balloon that befriends a little French boy. Told entirely through imagery with no dialogue, it’s perfect for younger kids who may struggle with subtitles.
The Cave of the Yellow Dog (2005)
A German and Mongolian film, The Cave of the Yellow Dog contains subtitles and is suitable for children seven and up. It will transport your family into the daily lives of nomadic Mongolians. The film follows the adventures of Nansal, a young Mongolian girl, whose daily routine includes shepherding her family’s herds alone in the mountains. After she finds a dog, she must decide between keeping it or obeying her father.
Dancing in Jaffa (2013)
Dancing in Jaffa explores the work of Pierre Dulaine, a former champion ballroom dancer and founder of the nonprofit Dancing Classrooms. In Israel, Dulaine uses dance classes to bring together 11-year-old Palestinian and Jewish Israelis. The film gently tackles subjects like multiculturalism, global politics, and gender differences, and you’ll love watching a group of shy schoolkids transform into performers. An excellent documentary for children seven and up, the story is told in English, Arabic, and Hebrew with subtitles.
Like Stars on Earth (2007)
This whimsical movie provides a beautiful introduction to Bollywood. It explores the story of Ishaan Awasthi, an eight-year-old boy labeled a lazy troublemaker. In reality, Ishaan’s imagination is so vibrant, he has trouble living in the real world. This heartwarming story will teach your children universal lessons about empathy while letting them explore the dynamic cultural landscapes of India. It’s suitable for kids seven and up.
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
The Australian movie Rabbit-Proof Fence is told in English and the aboriginal language with subtitles. It follows the journey of three mixed-race Aboriginal girls 1,500 miles to reunite with their mother. Following relocation for re-education in the Moore River Native Settlement, north of Perth, in Western Australia, the girls must walk for nine weeks to get home. Because this film tackles difficult themes like racism and internment, it’s appropriate for children nine and older.
Canela is a heartwarming Mexican movie told in Spanish with English subtitles, making it suitable for children nine years and up. It follows the story of Maria and her grandmother, who must rebuild their lives and keep their restaurant open after the death of Maria’s mother. The takeaway? Even when bad things happen, you have to keep going.
The Secret of Kells (2009)
The Secret of Kells follows the adventures of a young Irish boy in a remote medieval outpost under siege by the Vikings. When a celebrated master illuminator arrives with an ancient, yet unfinished book, Brendan must answer the call to adventure. In the process, he overcomes his deepest fears on a dangerous quest to complete the text.
Whale Rider (2002)
Whale Rider tells the inspirational story of a young girl who must fight against the patriarchal traditions of her tribe, the Whangara, to earn respect and acceptance from her grandfather, Koro. Filled with an inspirational message and gorgeous cinematography, your family will enjoy this tale of a young girl’s quest to fulfill her destiny despite 1,000 years of tradition. The film’s themes are suitable for children ten and up.
Start a New Tradition
Creating a movie night tradition that includes the best foreign films comes with so many benefits. Your kids will gain a global perspective as well as a greater sense of openness and tolerance. What if your kids prove reluctant to watch films that fall outside-the-box? Entice them with the trailers first. That’s why we’ve included them here. But for movies not on this list, you can access trailers on IMDb or YouTube.
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